En­joy na­ture for good men­tal health

Amanda Wat­son, of the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion, imag­ines how Mother Na­ture would urge us all to get out­side and en­joy life.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Hi, Mother Na­ture here – I think I owe you an apol­ogy.

I didn’t mean to catch you out in the rain when you were wait­ing for your bus. Also, sorry for the bird poo on your new top. Those mozzie bites may have been me too. I’ve been try­ing to get your at­ten­tion be­cause I’ve been feel­ing ne­glected. Chil­dren to­day spend less time with me than any gen­er­a­tion in hu­man his­tory and most kids can iden­tify more types of Poke­mon than they can na­tive birds!

Your in­creas­ingly seden­tary, in­door life­styles are not only go­ing to wreak havoc with phys­i­cal health, but your men­tal health is af­fected too. Nearly 50 per cent of New Zealan­ders will ex­pe­ri­ence a men­tal health prob­lem in their life­time, and de­pres­sion is set to over­come heart dis­eases as the big­gest global health bur­den by 2020.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – ev­i­dence proves that con­nect­ing with me will make you feel hap­pier, de­crease feel­ings of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, im­prove con­cen­tra­tion and buf­fer against stress. Just look­ing at me from a hos­pi­tal bed has been shown to aid re­cov­ery from surgery.

The best part? I am ev­ery­where. Al­though New Zealand has some of the best jewels I have to of­fer, you don’t have to travel the na­tional parks or forests. You can feel the ben­e­fits by sim­ply step­ping out into your back­yard to feel the grass be­neath your feet or gaz­ing up at the clouds in the sky.

This Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week, the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion is call­ing for a na­tional Lock­out – that means they want you to jump off the world wide web and get amongst the spi­der webs!

So the gaunt­let has been thrown, from Oc­to­ber 10 to 16, come and hang out with me to feel all the mag­i­cal ben­e­fits.

Need some ideas for how to con­nect with me dur­ing the lock­out and be­yond?

❚ Pack a pic­nic lunch or din­ner and head to your near­est park or beach with your col­leagues, friends of fam­ily.

❚ Jump on neigh­bourly.co.nz and in­vite those in your area over for a street BBQ.

❚ Take a photo walk – ex­plore your neigh­bour­hood with your phone or cam­era and take pictures of an un­ex­pected splash of colour, birds, na­tive trees and pretty flow­ers.

❚ Use nat­u­ral ma­te­rial to make art – think sea­weed, shell, sand and flow­ers.

❚ Take ad­van­tage of day­light sav­ings and head out­side af­ter school or work to play fris­bee, catch or spot­light.

❚ Vol­un­teer at an or­gan­ised beach clean-up or do your own. It’s a great way to meet like-minded peo­ple and keep Aotearoa beau­ti­ful! For more ideas and to find out about events happening near you through­out Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week visit mhaw.nz. There’s also free mer­chan­dise you can or­der for your school or work­place as well as some com­pe­ti­tions you can en­ter to win some awe­some prizes! Be sure to check out #MHAWNZ on so­cial me­dia too.

All ages can en­joy get­ting back to na­ture.

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